I devoured books as a child, but then suddenly stopped reading throughout my high school and college years. On a trip to Central America, my passion was re-ignited and I’ve been catching up ever since.
You can download my top 60 book recommendations right here, but this is the list of the ten books I wish I’d read WAY sooner. Needless to say, I had to try really hard to make sure this list didn’t turn into a “woe-is-me-I’ve-wasted-so-much-life” list.
I’d encourage you to read each book on this list as soon as possible. The compounding wins will pay off for the rest of your life.
How to be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson
“In a world where you are constantly asked to be ‘committed,’ it is liberating to give yourself the license to be a dilettante. Commit to nothing. Try everything.”
I used to oscillate between laziness and workaholism — while getting little accomplished — until I read Tom’s manifesto on slowing down in order to engineer a life you love. Now there’s less guilt, and more to show for it.
The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner
“Drink without getting drunk. Love without suffering jealousy. Eat without overindulging. Never argue. And once in a while, with great discretion, misbehave.”
All of Buettner’s books are excellent and worth reading, but his first outlines his journey to discover the “blue zones” where people live to a very ridiculously old age.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
Creating is hard work. Pressfield lays out the path to make it through the minefields that stand between the idea and the finished product.
Slipstream Time Hacking by Benjamin Hardy
“A person choosing to spend large portions of time in an unsatisfying job in order to make ends meet is on a fast track to his deathbed. Time will move increasingly faster as a result of his slow pace — the relativity of time.”
This basically-unedited self-published book with a ghastly cover was one of my favorite reads this year, and its topic is so important: how to live more life in the small space of time we’ve been given.
Mastery by Robert Greene
“In the future, the great division will be between those who have trained themselves to handle these complexities and those who are overwhelmed by them — those who can acquire skills and discipline their minds and those who are irrevocably distracted by all the media around them and can never focus enough to learn.”
I want to be Robert Greene when I grow up. He is the master of his genre, and his books will stay with us for a century or more. Mastery outlines the path to becoming a world-class performer in any field.
A Pocket Mirror for Heroes by Baltasar Gracián
“Never open the door to a lesser evil, for other and greater ones invariably slink in after it.”
Potentially the most underrated book on this list. The 17th century Jesuit philosopher known as Machiavelli’s superior shares a treasury of lessons on how to live a heroic life.
Tell to Win by Peter Guber
“Stories are not lists, decks, Power-Points, flip charts, lectures, pleas, instructions, regulations, manifestos, calculations, lesson plans, threats, statistics, evidence, orders, or raw facts… Non-stories may provide information, but stories have a unique power to move people’s hearts, minds, feet, and wallets in the story teller’s intended direction.”
This book was a game-changer for the way I communicate. Start with story. Make that human connection by partaking in the great art of storytelling as we’ve done around fires for thousands of years.
Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer
“Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent… Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.”
A very winsome book about “listening for the voice of vocation.” This book was very helpful on my journey towards personal fulfillment in my work. Highly recommended.
The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
“By working only when you are most effective, life is both more productive and more enjoyable. It’s the perfect example of having your cake and eating it, too… The goal is not to simply eliminate the bad, which does nothing more than leave you with a vacuum, but to pursue and experience the best in the world.”
I’m proud to say I discovered 4HWW prior to it hitting the bestseller lists and I still wish I’d discovered it sooner. This was the first book I ever purchased based solely on the author bio, and Tim’s paradigm-shifting views on getting more done is less time are excellent.
On the Shortness of Life by Lucius Annaeus Seneca
“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. … The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.”
I re-read this short letter on an annual basis and it continues to make me weep and then resolve to make every minute count. We can’t change the past, but we can chart a new way forward.